Intro: Workshop Coaster (prototyping Tutorial: Lasercutting)
· Raw material
· A vector drawing (this can be made with programs like illustrator)
NOTE: the makers of this instructable used illustrator to make the vector illustrations, they cannot guarantee that it will work as well with other programs.
About the machine
Type: VLS 4.60
Power: 60W laser tube
Height: 200mm (also depends on the material/what you want to do)
Pressured air for blowing away waste particles
This machine can cut through most kinds of wood, metals and some plastics. Most plastics can be used up to a thickness of about 8-10 mm. Try to stick to designs with thinner sheet materials, to avoid problems.
When using a lasermachine check the user manual or ask the owner what materials can or can’t be used!
In this machine you can use the following materials:
· PMMA (very well suited)
· Cardboard, paper
· Wood, MDF. Depending on the hardness/thickness, to be used for etching or cutting.
· Glass can be etched.
· Painted metal can be etched (the paint is removed by the laser).
· Textiles are nice to experiment with.
· Leather for cutting and etching.
DO NOT USE PVC.
Things to keep in mind when preparing for usage of a laser
· Make sure your drawing is not bigger than the machine
· Make sure you use the right materials
· Keep in mind that etching takes a long time and requires more energy. Reduce this as much as possible.
· 3D objects can be done
o Curved objects (up to 5mm) can be etched.
o Keep in mind that there might be a tolerance (up to 0.2mm)
· Make sure your sheet is bigger than your drawing
Step 1: Preparing the File
Most lasercutters work like a printer. The easiest way is to work with a vector drawing because it is scalable.
The machine uses following RGB colors:
· A red line (R255 G0 B0) is used for cutting through material
· A blue line (R0 G0 B255) is used for etching a line
· A black SURFACE (R0 G0 B0) is used for etching a surface
The thickness of lines is 0.025mm.
If you’re using a CAD program, you can export your drawing to a vector format which can be imported in Illustrator.
Step 2: Sending Your File to the Lasercutter
If the lasercutter is connected in the right way, and you’ve installed the right drivers for it, the lasercutter will behave like an ordinary printer.
You just have to press “print” and select the laser in the list of printers, and print it like a regular file.
Step 3: Preparing the Lasercutter
It doesn’t start cutting rightaway. You still have to activate the lasercutter.
In the bottom/right corner of your start bar should be the logo of the lasercutters driver. Open it.
You get a screen with your drawing (this should match your colors, if not, check your original file).
Here we can align the drawing to the surface of the machine.
· Zoom (no need for this, you can zoom in the Relocate View too)
· Focus View (for physically setting the laser head to a chosen point by clicking)
· Relocate View (for moving the preview where you want it, more or less)
· Duplicate View (for making multiple arrays of your design)
· Estimate View (for estimating how long the job would take, it’s a simulation of the lasercutting without actually cutting. It takes as long as the job itself)
· Relocate View; use this for:
o Panning the view to where you want it (nice & quick, use the rulers as a help)
o Setting one of the 9 reference points on your view, to the Focus View (if you set one)
o Zooming in (left mouse button) & zooming out (right mouse button)
After this select the “settings” button. Here we will select the power of the laser.
You can either choose between a preset for a material or do it manually.
If you know the material, select it and set the right material thickness. This can be done up to 0,1mm precision.
You can set the lasereffectiveness with the sliders. These settings won’t be saved.
For the manual settings, choose “manual control”.
Here you can set the speed and power of the laser.
Easiest is to select a material that is alike and choose “edit” where you can “clone” these settings and adjust them for your material.
Step 4: The Actual Use
When this is done, you go back to the startscreen of the lasercutter software. Here you start the machine with the power button.
MAKE SURE you turned on the “suction power” and the ”air compressor” if not, you might set the machine on fire or cause great damage to it.
Press the “play” button when ready, this will start the laser. “pause” will make it pause, and when resumed it will continue from that point on.
If the cover is opened, the laser will stop, but the head will keep moving.
Step 5: The Result
When the lasercutter is done you will get a signal. This means the laser is done and you can get your piece(s) out the machine.
When you take your stuff out the laser, be careful, it can be hot.
There might also be ashes on your model. You might want to clean this after using the laser. The edges might also be black from the burn. This can be sanded off (keep in mind that this will remove materials and your object will become smaller).